US men face Canada in curling, winner advances to play for gold

The USA men’s curling team is guaranteed an Olympic medal — and it upset a powerhouse team to do it.

Team Shuster has reached the gold medal game for the first time in history — after defeating three-time defending gold medalist Canada 5-3 in the semifinals.

The US will now face Sweden, who defeated Switzerland 9-3, in the final on Saturday.

“It means the world,” US skip John Shuster said to NBC.

The matchup was tight, tied 2-2 heading into the eighth end. But a shot by Canadian skip Kevin Koe was too light, and the US was able to steal two to take the lead for good.

Just days ago, the US looked to be on the verge of elimination, having won just twice in six games. But the Americans rallied to win three in a row to win the remainder of their round robin games, including Monday against Canada.

“It’s a little surreal right now still, just coming off of where we were to where we are now,” American Tyler George said. “It feels like two different tournaments. One’s a dream and one’s a reality. Fortunately for us the winning streak is the reality, but we’re trying not to get too excited.”

A devastating blow to Canada

This ends Canada’s impressive run at the Olympics in men’s curling — having reached every Olympic final since the sport returned to the Olympics in 1998. The country won gold in 2014, 2010, and 2006 and silver in 2002 and 1998.

The loss was “frustrating” because Canada was “in control the whole game,” Koe said.

“We got fooled a little by the ice.”

“It’s hugely disappointing” to be playing for bronze, the Canadian skip added. “But we don’t want to go home empty-handed, so as much as this sucks right now, if we can come out, play well and win tomorrow, and go home with a medal — that’ll take some of the sting off.”

Another shock is that the Canadian women aren’t playing anymore, either.

The reigning world and Olympic champions didn’t reach the semifinals, bowing out after the round robin.

It’s a devastating blow after heading into this Olympics as the only team to have finished on the podium at all five editions of the Olympic Winter Games since women’s curling was introduced in 1998.

‘I’ve dreamed about this since I was a little kid’

For the US, however, this is a first.

The country has never won Olympic gold in men’s or women’s curling. In 2006, Shuster won bronze for the US — a lone US medal in this Olympic sport.

“I remember what it felt like, standing on that podium and having an Olympic medal around your neck and the pride but watching somebody else’s flag go up on the top and the National Anthem,” Shuster said in the NBC interview.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed about since the time I was a little kid at the Olympics — is to see that American flag at the top in the middle and hear our National Anthem with the gold medal around our necks.”

This year’s Team USA consists of Shuster, George, Matt Hamilton, John Landsteiner and alternate Joe Polo.

After defeating Switzerland to reach the final, Sweden’s Christoffer Sundgren weighed in on playing the US: “We’re going to have to play at our absolutely top level, that’s for sure.”

Said Hamilton: “We have to keep playing like this, just believe we can do it, keep making shots.”

Still, being guaranteed a medal gives the Americans reason to cheer.

“It’s healthy to celebrate a little bit,” Hamilton said of the semifinal win. “I might go back to the Village and have a McFlurry.”